Approval at the county council’s cabinet meeting today (21 June 2022) follows its agreement in February to allocate additional funding to the project as part of its budget setting process. This funding will be combined with further investment from Homes England and the Oxfordshire LEP to deliver the project by mid-2026, following successful discussions. Homes England have also agreed that the Council can make significant improvements to the sustainability of the scheme during the next phase of design.
In addition, Cabinet heard that the county council had secured assurances from Homes England that it would work in partnership to identify additional funding sources or re-scope the project during the funding period, should it be required in exceptional circumstances. Cabinet agreed to provide a maximum of £30m in additional funding to the scheme, and to write to Homes England to make clear there could be no further contribution from Oxfordshire County Council.
Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “We’ve reached a vital point in the delivery of this scheme, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work closely with our partners to agree new funding arrangements and timescales to take this project forward.
“Didcot is a growing community. We know the importance of this project – not just to support new housing and employment opportunities but to help reduce congestion and provide real sustainable travel options for people by improving walking and cycling connectivity and improving bus journey times.”
The four separate elements that make up the HIF1 Didcot and surrounding areas project, will provide more sustainable travel options in and around Didcot, as well as reducing a legacy of congestion in the surrounding villages and improving air quality and noise levels.
The scheme will provide 19.2 km of high-quality walking and cycling infrastructure and connect employment sites with Didcot, surrounding villages and existing walking and cycling routes.
Opportunities for more direct, faster and more reliable bus routes will also be provided by the scheme. Eighteen new bus stops will increase the accessibility and catchment of the existing bus services in the area, whilst also helping to cater for new or improved services in the future.
This investment will also support an estimated 880,000sq feet of warehouse and office space and 20,000 new jobs in the local area as well as unlock delivery of more than 11,000 new homes across 12 separate sites in both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse districts, including approximately 4,200 affordable homes.
Councillor Enright added: “Oxfordshire needs a modern, efficient, reliable, affordable and sustainable transport system. The cost of congestion is too high. We can’t spend all of our lives stuck in traffic jams, so we have to rethink the way that people move around the county. We have been working to make this an exemplar scheme in environmental terms – with additional biodiversity gain, reduced embedded carbon and a flexible use of the route for future transport modes all being explored.”
The planning application for the scheme was submitted in November 2021, with a planning decision anticipated in the late summer.